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Le Bonheur expansion news

Expansion News

With great fanfare on Tuesday, June 28, Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center President/CEO Peggy Troy, R.N., MSN, unveiled major plans to renovate and expand the current hospital facility to almost 1,000,000 square feet.

Plans call for the new facility to be located north of Le Bonheur on what is now the site of Memphis Mental Health Institute (MMHI) at Poplar and Dunlap, adjacent to the current Le Bonheur campus. At the announcement, Troy unveiled architectural renderings of the new hospital's exterior, interior and campus view.

Currently, Le Bonheur has outgrown its facilities and is unable to accommodate all the services Mid-South children need. Le Bonheur will replace current inpatient care rooms and clinics with a new facility immediately north of the existing hospital bounded by Dunlap, Poplar, Pauline and Washington streets. In May, Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen announced plans to relocate MMHI into a new building within the Medical Center, freeing up the current location for a Le Bonheur expansion.

At a projected cost of $235 million, Le Bonheur must raise a significant portion of funds from the community, and a major fund-raising campaign for the new facility was announced at the event. Chaired by Accredo Health, Inc. CEO/Chairman of the Board David Stevens, the Le Bonheur campaign committee has already raised approximately $52.5 million toward a $100 million goal.

"Le Bonheur has a dynamic vision for the future to become one of the nation's top children's hospitals. This new Le Bonheur facility is the first public sign of the progress being made toward that goal," said Stevens. "The fact that we already have commitments that take us well beyond the halfway mark of our campaign target is a tribute to all the community visionaries who have embraced this goal."

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Le Bonheur shoots for Top 10 children's hospitals

By Maria Burnham


August 4, 2005

Larry Woodard thinks of buildings morning, noon and night. More specifically, he thinks of paying for $235 million worth of buildings.

From his first week on the job, Woodard, the new president of Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center Foundation, has been raising money to fund a project that will nearly double the medical center's size and, officials hope, push it into the upper echelon of children's hospitals.

"I think about that in my waking hours and in my sleep," he said.

Woodard, 62, took over as president of the foundation in June after an lengthy search by the hospital president and the foundation board.

"There were several candidates that were recommended to us, but Larry by far was the best and strongest candidate," said Larry Papasan, chairman of the Le Bonheur Foundation board. "He's going to do a great job."

Woodard shares a vision of what Le Bonheur can become and has the experience to help take the hospital there, he said.

Part of that vision is to expand Le Bonheur into a million square foot medical center with a 12-story patient tower in a new 650,000-square-foot hospital.

"Our objective is to make Le Bonheur one of the Top 10 children's hospitals. It'll probably take us 10 to 15 years to achieve that goal, but it is achievable," Papasan said.

The children's hospital plans to finance the project by selling $100 million in bonds, paying $35 million through its operating budget, and raising the rest from the community. That's where Woodard comes in.

He is well known in children hospital circles as a leader in development and has a long line of successes behind him, said Peggy Troy, Le Bonheur president and chief executive officer.

Woodard helped build up foundations as president of the Arkansas Children's Hospital, and executive vice president and chief operating officer at the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, where he served until coming to Le Bonheur.

"He loves the vision and mission of Le Bonheur and he brings a wealth of experience to the table," Troy said. "I feel really lucky to get to work with someone like Larry."

But moving a hospital into the Top 10 doesn't come just by way of bricks and mortar. It includes hospital research and quality staff. To that end, the foundation is raising money for research endowments that will support current staff members and attract new ones, Woodard said.

Funds will also be used to expand and start new treatment programs at the hospital.

"So much of what children's hospitals do, no one pays for it. Insurance won't pay for it, the government won't pay for it, " he said. "So that's why they need us."

Le Bonheur has had a fund-raising arm for decades, but the foundation was only chartered in 2001. In its most recent incarnation, the foundation was operated under the Methodist Healthcare umbrella. (Methodist owns Le Bonheur.)

But Le Bonheur and Methodist officials realized with the new goals and projects ahead, the Le Bonheur Foundation needed a separate identity and leader.

"It became like a calling," Woodard said of his job. "This was really something I wanted to be a part of."

With his staff of 12, Woodard has set the goal of raising $30 million this year for the building fund and $5.1 million for endowments and other projects.

In the oncoming years, he plans to increase not just the amounts but the number of goals. There will be goals for annual giving, major gifts and state gifts.

For a hospital Le Bonheur's size, a $250-300 million endowment is not unusual. And Woodard hopes to reach that level, if not exceed it.

"There is definitely plenty to do," he said.

-- Maria Burnham: 529-2320


Larry Woodard

Title: President of the Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center Foundation

Age: 62

Family: He and wife, Juanita, have been married for 39 years and have two children -- Doug, 36, and Laura, 31.

Hometown: Oklahoma City

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Journalism/Public Relations from University of Oklahoma

Copyright 2005, commercialappeal.com - Memphis, TN. All Rights Reserved.

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Le Bonheur adds specialists to boost critical care service

Scott Shepard

The goal of positioning Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center as the dominant pediatric center in the region has gotten stronger with the addition of two new intensive care specialists, plus a third scheduled to arrive in March. That nearly doubles the critical care staff to seven.

"We've had four people for a long while, so this gives us a wider breadth of knowledge and experience," says pediatric intensivist Stephanie Storgion, medical director of Le Bonheur's ICU and a professor of pediatrics at UT-Memphis. "The three we added all come from different areas of medicine, and they can bring those things to Memphis."

All medical schools and academic training centers are not the same. Since a majority of Memphis physicians graduated from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, recruiting physicians who trained elsewhere -- in fields not well covered here -- represents the freshest of blood.

"This gives us different clinical expertise, and also gives us different approaches," Storgion says. "We take care of children but we're also involved in training pediatric residents and critical care fellows. Since each of us has a little different area of interest we can focus our efforts in new ways."

Two years ago, nurse Peggy Troy became president of Le Bonheur and set the goal of making the hospital the first choice of referring physicians in the Mid-South.

Since then Le Bonheur has recruited pediatric cardiovascular surgeon Christian Gilbert and tasked him with assembling a team to provide the most advanced heart procedures, eventually to include heart transplants. Le Bonheur is also taking on the neonatal intensive care services from the Regional Medical Center at Memphis.

The 20-bed pediatric ICU is another essential service. Physicians in surrounding areas are more likely to refer patients to the place with a beefier first string of doctors who possess unique talents.

"Even though we've been doing this for 35 years, pediatric critical care is still a field that is not completely visible," Storgion says. "Everyone knows about neonatologists, who take care of newborns; everyone understands babies that are premature, but kids aren't supposed to get sick."

A majority of pediatric ICU patients are on ventilator support, and monitored for heart rate and blood pressure. It's the children's equivalent to an adult cardiac ICU.

Two of the new physicians were lured to Memphis specifically to take advantage of the close relationship Le Bonheur has with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. The two hospitals share much of the same medical staff from UT; St. Jude brain surgeries are performed at Le Bonheur, with patients recuperating in Storgion's ICU.

That's where Tom Spentzas fits in. His area of interest is neurological intensive care, and he moved from New York to work with patients at St. Jude, the leading pediatric cancer center in the world.

Sometimes patients don't recover. Christine Zawistowski moved to Memphis from Pennsylvania first to care for sick children, but also for the opportunity to conduct research with nurse Pamela Hinds, director of the Division of Nursing Research at St. Jude. For children who cannot have a life, their goal is to give them a good death.

Most sick children get better, Storgion says, but the critical care staff must deal with the dying patients and their families.

"Memphis is an opportunity to pursue my research in an environment that is unique," Zawistowski says. "In the world of pediatric critical care we are not taught how to handle death, but the place where the most children die is in the ICU. If you're in a small unit in the middle of nowhere, you need a place to go for guidelines."

Zawistowski's undergraduate degree is in philosophy with an emphasis on ethics. As a fellow at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, she was caring for transplant patients and discovered there were no guidelines when caring for dying children. Her mentor was an ICU doc who worked in adult critical care.

"I did a retrospective chart review and some of the things were upsetting," Zawistowski says. "Documentation in some the medical charts is horrendous."

She and Hinds are working on a grant proposal that, if funded, would allow them to document the way palliative and end-of-life care is now performed. That includes the withdrawal of pain medication and breathing tubes, as well as record keeping and dealing with family members. From there the duo intends to develop best practice guidelines like those used in many other medical fields.

"Interventions that are used to alleviate suffering have become fairly sophisticated, and we want to be sure they are accomplishing our goals," Hinds says. "There's very little information about the best ways to give care when a child is not going to be cured."

Some palliative drugs given to relieve pain also induce paralysis, necessitating a breathing tube. The drugs' effect can linger for weeks, so removing the tube can lead to suffocation. One focus of the research will be ways to successfully wean patients from a breathing machine so their final days can be experienced with some form of normalcy.

Hinds also wants to examine the effects of handing-off a patient. The course of therapy may change, from surgery to chemotherapy to radiation, and each time it means a completely different clinical team, just as the patient and family get used to the one they have.

CONTACT staff writer Scott Shepard at 259-1724 or [email protected]

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Heavy hitters in neurology

Heavy hitters in neurology

Le Bonheur recruits 'A-team' to boost research

Scott Shepard

Imagine James Wheless in the role of Col. John 'Hannibal' Smith and it's easy to see how he's bringing the neurological A-Team to Memphis.

Wheless was recruited from the University of Texas in Houston to create a neurology department at Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center with a focus on pediatric epilepsy. Along the way, Wheless managed to persuade his entire team in Houston to follow him to Memphis.

And just like each member of the A-Team had a special skill vital to success -- Mr. T was a crackerjack mechanic -- each person on Wheless' team has a critical role.

"We've worked together for a long time, and as I was making the decision to leave Houston it became obvious that we wanted to keep the group intact," Wheless says. "This gives us a critical nucleus for clinical care and research. Instead of building it a twig at a time, we start with a log."

After 16 years they already had a thriving practice in Texas, with an outpatient clinic, an inpatient epilepsy monitoring unit, clinical and basic research and even training for new doctors. But UT-Houston is massive, with plenty of major programs duking it out for their fair share.

"In Houston, UT pulls things together, but there are a lot of hospitals, physician groups and other power centers like Baylor University, and they all have their own goals," he says. "Here, I think of Le Bonheur, UT (University of Tennessee Health Science Center) and St. Jude as partners with the same goals."

The lure of Memphis, Wheless says, was the opportunity to create a new program that can quickly attain national status. He was persuaded to make the move by Le Bonheur president Peggy Troy, a nurse who has set the goal of making Le Bonheur one of the top 10 pediatric medical centers in the nation.

Also essential to the recruiting effort was hematologist Joe Mirro Jr., chief medical officer at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. St. Jude gets the most complicated pediatric cases in the nation, and many of them involve the brain and nervous system. St. Jude radiologist Raja Khan was also on the recruiting team. His particular interest is migraines and other debilitating headaches in children.

Wheless expects his team to make a difference in treating patients at St. Jude, as well as collaborate with St. Jude scientists in research.

Research in Memphis should be more fruitful than it was in Houston. As a tertiary referral center, the Texas clinic received only the rarest and most difficult cases after other specialists hit the wall. As a regional hospital, Le Bonheur should get both the common cases and the complicated ones, providing a wider pool of subjects.

The presence of Semmes-Murphey Clinic was like whipped cream on the sundae, Wheless says. With a strong pediatric neurosurgery practice in place, bringing in a group of pediatric neurologists can only enhance the operation. Semmes-Murphey pediatric neurosurgeons Fred Boop and Stephanie Einhaus have a strong interest in epilepsy, says nephrologist Russell Chesney, chairman of the Department of Pediatrics. They've long sought more neurologists in order to enhance patient care.

"Semmes-Murphey without us is like having a Lexus but you're living in a tent," Wheless says. "My goal wasn't a lateral transition -- move for the sake of moving. We're here to establish a pediatric neurology center with an epilepsy program for this community."

Epilepsy is a broad term to describe an array of conditions. A seizure is essentially a spontaneous electric overload in the brain. It can be brought on by a shock, or an excess of alcohol or drugs. Epilepsy and recurring seizures are symptoms of an area of the brain that's not functioning properly, though there are no tests to determine what the problem is.

Epilepsy commonly occurs in tandem with other problems such as learning disabilities: both stem from the same malfunction, so treating one doesn't correct the other.

Treating epilepsy is often hit or miss, with the first stop being diet. Seizures have been related to baby formula that lacks Vitamin B6, for example, and to children who have difficulty metabolizing fat or protein. A pharmacist by training, Wheless also relies on a number of drugs. With the right combination, up to 75% of patients can live without seizures.

When all else fails, seizures can be limited with implanted devices that disrupt the electric storms of the brain.

"What happens in the first years affects the rest of life," Wheless says. "If a protocol I can do at age 4 has a significant impact, it can mean another 70 years of a better life."

Landing four top neurologists who already work together cannot be overstated, Chesney says.

"This is an extremely fortunate situation where the stars aligned," Chesney says. "There's a shortage of child neurologists nationally, so to bring a team like this in is a powerful thing. I've known parents in Memphis who've had to take their children out of town to see a neurologist."

One reason for the shortage of specialists was a misguided effort to reign in medical costs a decade ago by urging medical schools to turn out more primary care doctors. Chesney hopes to reverse that by starting a new pediatric neurology training program for physicians.

Wheless' team is just the beginning. He's still in the hunt for a pediatric neurosurgeon with a focus on brain tumors who can also work at St. Jude. Since one child in 30 has migraines, he'd like another doctor who treats headaches, plus a third with a focus on newborn neurology to work in Le Bonheur's new 15-bed neonatal ICU.

"I hope to have 12 pediatric neurologists, and then we'll start looking at other niches," he says. "We have a Northwest hub, and I expect people to begin flying their children to Memphis to be treated at Le Bonheur."

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